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Sunday, May 19, 2024

GENERAL ELECTIONS IN NINE MONTHS LOOMING CONCERNS

Date:

Commentary by John H. T. Stewart

With General and Presidential Elections due in just nine(9) months from now, looming concerns about the creation of a level playing field for elections that remain yet unaddressed could very well turn out to be a nightmarish spectacle given the current trend of things.

As we all know and unlike any other singular event on the country’s calendar which can be shifted without causing serious harm to the body politic the date set for general and presidential elections, October 10, 2023, cannot be shifted. It remains cast in stone.

It is for this reason that plans have to be put in place well before elections day in order to insure that the elections are trouble-free. But this appears not to be the case with NEC under the inept and incompetent leadership of its chairperson, Madame Davidetta Brown Lansanah.

Issues that remain outstanding and yet unaddressed include a firm decision acceptable to the parties as concerns the choice of a biometric or optical mark recognition process(OMR) to be used in the voting process.

There have been expressed concerns by some NEC Commissioners about the arbitrariness of their chairperson, Davidetta Brown Lansanah who has single-handedly selected a company with lesser credentials than its rivals and has already blatantly violated the rule requiring interested parties to pre-finance the purchase, installation, and training of staff to handle the biometric equipment.

Rather instead she authorized payment of US$4m in advance to her self-chosen company when the company had not even brought any such equipment into the country. Her action is also a blatant violation of the Public Procurement Concession law requiring competitive bidding.

And she has done so with impunity. There are suggestions from some quarters that her decision was influenced by hefty bribe offers, a suggestion which can not be dismissed with just a wave of the hand.

Additionally, political parties and the public, in general, have voiced strong concerns about shifting voters’ registration dates which could serve to impair the free, fair, and transparent conduct of the elections. Already the date set for voters’ registration has been shifted twice.

Further, there are troubling concerns about the critical lack of time for voters’ education as NEC has yet to produce a voter education manual/booklet, etc. to educate voters, especially first-time voters on the process.

More to this is the very short time allotted for verification of the voter roll. The NEC has alluded to the use of the biometric system for elections.

But up to now, it remains unclear whether the equipment has arrived in the country and whether training on the use of the equipment has been done.

Given the above, it appears clear that the country is headed for trouble with the NEC chairperson tainted by corruption charges and worse, grossly incompetent according to NEC insider sources.

Recently the Liberian People’s Party(LPP) issued a press statement warning of a looming constitutional crisis occasioned by mismanagement, incompetence, and lack of transparency and called for the re-composition of the NEC Board of Commissioners or at the minimum the replacement of its chairperson, Madame Davidetta Brown Lansanah.

So far and to the best of publicly available information, political parties who are the principal stakeholders are not being consulted by the NEC leadership.

The Inter Party Coordinating Committee (IPCC) has not been vocal on these key issues and it appears, at least from the surface that the CDC is indeed calling the shots

And, despite growing public concerns about the way in which the electoral process is being poorly managed under the leadership of Madame Lansanah, President Weah has still not seen it fit to address himself to a problem that has a huge potential to waylay his presidential ambition.

From all indications he does not realize this and when and if he eventually does, it might very well be too late because if elections are not held on the appointed date, one minute after January 15, 2024, he (George Weah) ceases to be the legitimate President of Liberia thereby creating a Constitutional crisis.

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